Questions about Priest Pedophilia Crisis

From: John Yamada []
Sent: Friday, May 03, 2002 11:47 AM
Father Bloom,

I have the questions for you. Before we get started I just wanted to say thank you again for taking time out of your day to help me. If you don't want to answer any of these questions please feel free to just skip over them... If it is possible I would like to have this back before the 15th of May.

1) What is your position in the church?

[Fr Bloom] Pastor of Holy Family Parish, Seattle.

2) How long has the church had a policy of celibacy for priests and nuns?

[Fr Bloom] Since very early times. All monks of course were celibate, beginning first with solitary monks, like St. Anthony of Egypt. Soon after there were monks who formed small and larger communities, like the monasteries St. Benedict of Nursia founded. Diocesan priests strove to imitate the asceticism and prayer of the monks. The policy of accepting only celibates for the diocesan priesthood became universal in the middle ages, but the tradition goes back to earliest centuries. Religious communities of women (nuns) by definition must be celibate.

3) Do you know the reason why the church feels the clergy should remain celibate?

[Fr Bloom] It goes back to the example and teaching of Jesus. He of course was celibate and he said that some of his disciples would renounce marriage "for the sake of the Kingdom of God." St. Paul also was celibate and encouraged others to follow his example (see his first letter to the Corinthians).

4) Is celibacy of the clergy a law in scripture or by the pope?

[Fr Bloom] As indicated in #3, it comes from Scripture.

5) Do you feel the church should keep this policy of celibacy?

[Fr Bloom] Yes, although there should be some exceptions, for example Anglican and Lutheran clergy who convert to Catholicism.

6) Do you think changing this policy would end child molestation by priests?

[Fr Bloom] Not in itself since most child molesters are married men. The way to end child molestation is by vigilance, supervision and of course isolation of anyone who has those tendencies.

7) Do you think the media has been unfair to the church and clergy in its reporting?

[Fr Bloom] Tabloid journalism in general does great harm. Although I was no great fan of Bill Clinton, I felt it damaged our society, especially young people, to broadcast the details of his sexual foibles and to make them the object of jokes. It brings us all down. We need more discreet ways of dealing with such transgressions. Here in Seattle, a priest had his name and picture in the papers and on television based on accusations of things he allegedly did over two decades ago. The black community felt particularly hurt because he was one of our two Afro-American priests and was deeply loved for the wonderful ministry he had. I say "had" because the reporting in effect tossed him in the garbage. I am furious inside, but I cannot say very much because some will say I want to cover up. I do not - in the sense of protecting a wrong-doer from punishment, especially if he has committed a crime. Still, there are more discreet ways this could be handled without destroying others and weakening the sense of respect for every human being.

8) How do you think the church is handling this matter? Are they doing a good job?

[Fr Bloom] It depends. The Seattle Archdiocese instituted sound guidelines almost twenty years ago and has followed them carefully. Others committed outrageous blunders right into the early 90's. I think the press can play a role in a sensible discussion of proper criteria, making the public as a whole aware of the issue.

9) What else could the church do to help end child molestation? How could they make sure this never happens again?

[Fr Bloom] As I said above it is a question of vigilance, supervision and quarantining actual or potential child molestors. All institutions need to do that. Child molestation happens in other religious denominations, in schools, medical centers, etc.

10) Do you know if the church has been covering cases of molestation up as the news says they have been?

[Fr Bloom] Sadly that seems to have happened in some dioceses right into the early 90's. I am not aware of cases in the past five or ten years where a priest abused a child and then was simply reassigned.

11) Do you feel the church should be liable if a priest molests a child? What if the church covers up the abuse?

[Fr Bloom] The priest himself should be liable. If the bishop knows about it and does not report it to the police, he should also be liable.

12) In your opinion, what is the real problem with priests molesting children? Is it physical or psychological?

[Fr Bloom] It does horrendous psychological, emotional and spiritual damage to a child.

13) If the church does end its policy of clergy celibacy will it cause other problems?

[Fr Bloom] There are married clergy in almost all Protestant denominations. If we went to married clergy in the Catholic Church, we would probably have the same problems they do.

14) Should priests be fired if they molest children? Or should they be given another chance?

[Fr Bloom] As I said above, quarantined. However, some distinction needs to be made between a pedophile and a pederast. A pedophile has an exclusive attraction to pre-pubescent children. From what I understand, this psychological condition is resistant to any therapy available. Pederasty, involvement with post-adolescent boys, has been typical of the great majority of priest offenders. The two cases here in Seattle which made the media were accusations of pedasty. As I mentioned, the accusations go back over twenty years, the priests involved did receive treatment, ongoing supervision and monitoring. Even though it made a great media splash and a hotline was set up to find out if there had been other victims, no one has come forward.

15) If they are given another chance what safeguards should be put in place?

[Fr Bloom] A child therapist, health profession - and law enforcement person - would have to answer that. In Seattle we involved people from those professions and others.

16) How long will it be before any definite changes are made in the church?

[Fr Bloom] As I said, Seattle made its changes almost twenty years back and they seem to be working. I think that is the case for most dioceses. Others will need to catch up.

17) Have any of your parishioners doubted their faith because of the recent news?

[Fr Bloom] Yes, but oddly it seems to also have brought many people to the church. Every human being has wounds, sins, shame which only Jesus can heal.

18) Do you think there is a direct relationship between celibacy and abuse?

[Fr Bloom] See above, esp. # 6 & 9.

19) How do you feel about female priests? Would this help or hinder the church?

[Fr Bloom] See: Why Women Can Never Be Priests

Good luck, Jonathan. Please send me a copy of your paper when you finish.

Fr. Phil Bloom


Thank you once again,

Jonathan Yamada, Senior
Management and Human Resources
College of Business Administration
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

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the modern world (even while mocking sexual innocence) has flung itself into a generous idolatry of sexual innocence--the great modern worship of children. For any man who loves children will agree that their peculiar beauty is hurt by a hint of physical sex. (from Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton)